tabula rasa

[tab-yuh-luh rah-suh, -zuh, rey-]

1. a mind not yet affected by experiences, impressions, etc.

2. anything existing undisturbed in its original pure state; blank slate.


a/n: i am so excited to finally share tabula rasa with you all! this 15k-word monstrosity is my entry for the pjo big bang collection this year. a special thanks to my amazing artists t: silima, t: aquacanis, and t: shorty-scribbles and my phenomenal betas t: darlinglissa/ao3: peterpiperparker, t/ao3: rulingthecastleonthehill, and t: lrfe! i hope that you all enjoy :)


i.

It's always a little peculiar to her how strawberries can grow so well in the dead of winter, but Annabeth learns to not question it anymore. The camp's protective barrier doesn't just keep the unwanted guests (of the supernatural varieties) out, but it also serves as a sort of climate control.

It's a consolation prize for being a demigod, she supposes. She gets to wade through the fields even in December, harvesting berries and packing them in neat little boxes stamped with "Delphi Strawberry Service."

It's nice. Therapeutic, even.

It gets her mind off of some more inconvenient tasks she needs to do: namely, breaking off whatever it is that has been happening between her and Jason.

No.

She shakes her head. These thoughts don't belong in the strawberry fields. She is here to escape for a second. Annabeth inhales deeply.

She exhales.

After nine years here, the sweet smell of ripe strawberries is still as alluring as ever.

Nine years, Annabeth muses. Time passes so fast.

A lot has happened in nine years; most recently, the camp has paid a steep price in the Second Titan War, but for the last few months, there has been peace. It's something she would like to get used to.

"Annabeth!"

She spoke too soon. So much for peace.

Annabeth sighs and places her basket down wearily, watching the breathless son of Dionysus run towards her. Pollux has seen better days; he is still grieving four months after Castor's death.

She feels a rush of guilt, but she's been learning to recognize that not all the blood is on her hands. Glory has not come as readily for her as it has for Jason. It doesn't feel like victory when she is responsible for Luke's death. Even if he chose that for himself in the end.

Pollux steps on some strawberries accidentally and he barely flinches. Annabeth braces herself: this isn't good. The son of Dionysus is usually a whole lot more careful around vine-based plants.

"Pollux," she greets, "what's wrong?"

"Chiron told me to come fetch you," Pollux looks at her strangely. "Jason has disappeared. He's gone."

ii.

As it stands, it seems like everyone at camp expects her to know exactly where Jason is, just because they are dating. Sort of.

What they don't know is that she has been avoiding him for days while she figures out how to break up with him delicately so that they can still maintain their nine years of friendship.

It's hard.

Everyone expected them to get together after the Second Titan War, so they tried to, but it isn't their dynamic. It never was.

Annabeth considers him more of a brother; after all, they met when they were seven, when she ran into Luke, Thalia, and Jason in an empty alleyway in Alexandria, Virginia.

It doesn't matter now, she supposes.

She is worried about Jason, and she wants to embark on a quest to look for him right away.

But she can't.

Apparently, along with Jason, Dionysus has disappeared.

It seems that there's some issues on Olympus, and all the gods had been recalled up to the heavens.

There is no guidance. And for how dangerous everything potentially is, quests have been strictly forbidden by Chiron. Annabeth thinks that's absolute bullshit, but there isn't much she can do.

She would sneak out, as she did all those years ago for the quest that led her to the Sea of Monsters, but this time, there is absolutely no indication as to where Jason could have disappeared to.

He never left a note.

There's no hint of a monster attack.

And when other campers checked his cabin, everything was in a neat array. It's too organized, which irked Annabeth when they were together. Everything's too orderly, too sterile. There's no warmth.

But now she just misses her best friend.

She prays to her mother at dinner, then to Zeus, sacrificing parts of her meal to the King of the gods, but there is no answer.

There are no prophetic demigod dreams that would give her some indication for how she should proceed. Annabeth Chase has always been good at deciphering some direction out of abstraction, but she is stumped this time.

So, after a particularly dull dinner, Annabeth decides to head out to sit by Thalia's pine.

She misses her older sister - it has been nearly ten years since her little family lost its first member.

She is now a few years older than Thalia when she died, but to Annabeth, Thalia always seems so much older, more confident, prouder, and stronger than she ever can be.

After Thalia was gone, Luke had become much more bitter, much more angry at the gods. Jason and her were always concerned, but they didn't do enough. She and Jason had gotten closer, and Luke drifted further and further away until he was gone.

Then, it had been just her and Jason. She thought that all of this may be finally over and that they can get a break. With Jason disappearing a few days ago, Annabeth isn't sure if she can keep her last promise to Thalia.

Keep Jason safe for me.

Lost in thought, Annabeth clutches her hand around her Camp necklace, the bead with Thalia's pine painted on.

iii.

A crack in the not-so-far distance alerts her.

She peers into the horizon, beyond the magical borders of the camp, looking for anything abnormal.

Annabeth is itching for a fight; the gods' world is not a fair one, and her life is feeling like another cruel joke. If a monster would like to tempt the Fates and bother her at the moment, then she'll tear it a new one.

The figure coming in has the head of a bull and the torso of a big, muscular man.

Oh no.

When she wishes for some challenge, she doesn't quite mean the Minotaur. She can feel the Fates laughing at her now. What irony.

The monster approaches quickly.

Just then, she makes out some other shadows that danced in the mist just a moment ago. As it turns out, the chimera has also decided to join the fun. The lion head sneers at her, and Annabeth is sure that the monster's goat head and the snake head won't be thrilled to see her, either.

The last time she saw the chimera, she was twelve. It did not go well.

Jason nearly died trying to redirect some electricity in the St. Louis' Arch to fry the monster, and even then, Annabeth had to do some fancy wiring to make sure that little stunt was effective. Needless to say, both the chimera and Echidna are not big fans of hers from the events of that day.

This isn't good.

With two extremely dangerous monsters, Annabeth isn't sure if the camp's border can hold them off while she gets back up. The camp's population has been sparse since the summer, and she needs to make sure the remaining campers can be safe within the border without any worry.

If she is smart about this, she can kill the monsters herself. (And no- this is not a case of her arrogance speaking, thank you very much.)

Annabeth stands up, unsheathing her dagger on her side.

The monsters are closer now, only about a hundred yards away.

Annabeth takes out her cap, putting it on. Invisibility may not work as well if the monster can smell her, but she'll take any support she can get at the moment.

The chimera turns towards her, closing quickly.

In the corner of her eye, she sees the Minotaur charging towards something, and getting its horns stuck temporarily in the tree. Good, that ought to buy her some time with the chimera.

One hundred yards… Eighty yards… Sixty… Forty.

Annabeth gets ready to stab the chimera's side - if she can dodge the initial charge and take a hold of the snake head in the back, then she can swing herself underneath and use that momentum to behead the snake. She needs to behead the goat next, and once she does that, the beast will only have one head left.

Twenty.

She gets ready to fight, but the beast stops in midair, stopped by a boy her age, sixteen or seventeen years old, looking furious and absolutely exhausted. He doesn't see her because she has her invisibility cap on, but she can see him clearly through all the fog by the hills. Annabeht had not expected there to be another half-blood, but it would explain why there were two monsters by the border.

They were chasing him.

Annabeth is quickly drawn back to reality, as the beast roars once again.

It turns out that the boy is grabbing the chimera by its snake head, which he uses to swing himself onto the beast, right between the lion head and the goat head.

The lion huffs and tries to breathe fire onto her to scorch her, but he beheads that head with a swift slice, his bronze sword glinting as he swings it.

Annabeth doesn't have time to think more; she lets her instincts take over, sliding herself to the underbelly of the beast. She severs the snake head at its base, wincing a little at the dark purple sludge that comes out from the wound, spurting liquid all through the ground.

"What-" the boy says, his voice raspy, but Annabeth doesn't have time to respond before the beast starts to stomp aggressively.

She rolls out to the side, barely avoiding being flattened.

The boy doesn't hesitate either, as he turns from where he sits and uses his sword to stab into the backwards looking goat head of the chimera. He drags his sword down its hide and the beast explodes into dust.

He gracefully lands onto the ground (Annabeth has no doubt she would have tumbled at least a little), and shakes himself free of all that monster dust. Despite the foggy environment, Annabeth can still see how beautiful his sea green eyes are. She likes his rugged good looks.

She shakes her head. Now really isn't the time for that; there is still another monster to fight. But before that, she needs to announce her presence to him. Annabeth takes off her hat.

"Hey," she says, slightly raising her arms, predicting correctly that the boy would be startled.

He swings his sword towards her to point it at her chest, but she is already prepared. "I'm not your enemy here, I have come to help. I was the one who took care of the second chimera head." She nods slightly at her dagger in her right hand, gesturing back to the pile of monster dust. "I just want to let you know before we fight the Minotaur."

Annabeth isn't sure if he is fully convinced, but they don't have time. The Minotaur is already freeing itself from the tree.

He acknowledges her with a slight nod, and she puts her cap back on.

The Minotaur charges and the two both sidestep; since the Minotaur's sense of smell is probably confused by the presence of another demigod, Annabeth feels the boldness and the liberty to get closer to the half bull than she otherwise would.

She gets close, and, carefully, as the Minotaur takes its next stride, puts all of her weight behind her thrust, digging her dagger deep into the beast's knees.

The monster howls, and falls.

"Now," she commands, as the boy strikes it by its shoulder, slicing deep into the muscle.

"Nice one," he compliments, but that brief moment of success is fleeting as the Minotaur stirs again.

In a moment of shock, Annabeth watches in horror as the boy anchors himself by the beast's neck, rising with the Minotaur as it stands back up.

It seems like what the two inflicted a moment prior felt just like a flesh wound; the Minotaur roars in anger and the trees around the hill shake from the volume.

"That's not good," Annabeth mutters, trying to wrack her brain to find a solution.

She sees the Minotaur swing wildly, trying to shake her new friend (or at least half-blood in arms) off of its shoulders, but he holds on. Annabeth sees him try to land blows onto the monster's shoulders, but it isn't quite working.

The half bull's hide is strong, and the strikes are not sinking deep. No matter how much the boy slices its arm, there just is not enough damage. The dark crimson lines that are left on the Minotaur's arms just merely make it more angry.

Annabeth thinks - what does that mean, if even the celestial bronze weapons are not enough to hurt the Minotaur?

Perhaps something from the beast itself needs to be utilized in order to defeat it?

"The horn!" Annabeth screams, hoping that the boy can hear her through the sound of wind in his ears. He is still on a wild ride atop the beast.

"What?" he says instinctively, but Annabeth makes a gesture of the horn and he understands.

He stops trying to slice the Minotaur and puts away his sword (to where? Annabeth does not know), and focuses his strength after wrapping both of his hands on one of the horns.

Annabeth watches in amazement as a sickening crunch resounds in the air and one of the horns comes off loose.

The good news is that the next thing she knows, the boy is driving the horn right into the Minotaur's right eye and it seems to be reaching directly into its head, almost a guarantee to the beast's defeat. The bad news is that the beast, before admitting defeat and erupting into dust, runs straight at a tree, determined to make an impact that would smush the boy into a half-blood pancake.

She barely sees the boy before he throws himself to the ground, falling a good twenty feet and tumbling further down the hill.

The monster is gone, only its horn left.

The boy also doesn't move, but Annabeth breathes a sigh of relief when she sees the slow rises and falls of his chest. Hopefully, he's alright. She'll get Will to check up on him.

Annabeth sighs again, taking a hold of the horn as a spoil of war and hoisting the boy with her, past the border and into Camp Half-Blood.

She doesn't miss the strange tattoo on his forearm. It has a few stripes and a three-pronged spear.

iv.

He wakes.

Before he can say anything else, she intends to ask how he is feeling, and to give him his spoil of war. Instead, she says the first thing that comes to her mind.

"You drool when you sleep."

v.

"He's new," Nico comments dryly when he walks into the infirmary, looking for Annabeth to give her the cabin inspection list he filled in for the day.

"Yeah," Annabeth says, looking into the window and watching the newcomer eat.

He's a strange one - the new demigod. He has shocking sea green eyes and a mop of messy black hair.

Annabeth hates to admit that she still finds him attractive, despite the fact that he is caked with mud everywhere and smells like he hasn't showered for weeks.

"What's his name?" Nico asks, bringing her back to the present. She pretends to inspect the checklist, but her mind won't let her concentrate on the letters on the page.

There's something strange about this demigod. Annabeth wonders if he is connected to Jason's disappearance, and she isn't sure how to feel about that.

"Not sure, he didn't say," she replies. "I got Will to set some food for him because he looks famished. But he didn't share anything with us. We don't even know if he can understand us."

"Huh," Nico hmms as if he is withholding information. "That's interesting, don't you think?"

"Nico," Annabeth turns around, staring at the son of Hades. He raises an eyebrow.

"What?"

"If you know anything, you need to tell me."

"I don't know anything," Nico says curtly.

Annabeth doesn't know if she trusts him. They've always had an interesting relationship. She never figured out whether Nico resents her or not, since Bianca died on the quest to save her from Atlas.

But she searches his eyes, and he stands tall. If he were hiding something, it seems like she isn't getting to the bottom of it anyway.

Annabeth only relents because she determines that it does not seem like Nico is hiding something because of his grudge against Jason. Maybe she should be more understanding to the boy, but children of Hades' fatal flaw is grudge holding.

"...Fine," she sighs. "I trust your judgement, but don't make me regret it. Don't forget, Jason lost his sister, too. I can't lose him now. I promised his sister I'd take care of him."

Nico shrinks a little, but before Annabeth can put another word in or wonder if she is being too harsh to him with an apology, he shrouds himself with shadows and the darkness swallows him.

vi.

"What is your name?" Annabeth asks, when he is fed and groomed.

"My name is Perseus Jackson, and my mother's name is Sally Jackson."

vii.

"So, this is the dining pavilion, this is where you grab dinner. You typically sit with your demigod siblings, but since you're new, you might have to wait a few days before your parent claims you. Until then, you can choose to stay in the Hermes cabin or in the Big House - it's really your choice, we don't have a lot of campers at the moment," Annabeth informs the new camper once he seems well enough to walk around, but that progressively seems to not be a very good idea.

He is not listening at all.

Instead, he stares at her intently with those ocean eyes of his, and she wonders, briefly, for one second, if they had met before. He seems so familiar for some reason.

"Can I help you?" She asks when it becomes unnerving.

"No. But you are Annabeth Chase."

"What?" She asks, completely taken by surprise. She wants to ask him just exactly how he knows, but when she shakes herself out of a daze, he is already gone.

She looks at him sprinting away from her.

Still baffled, she follows.

viii.

"What do you mean, he won't come out of the ocean?"

"It means that he's been in there for the past thirty minutes, and no one can fish him out. We don't have a child of Poseidon sitting around."

"Oh my gods," Annabeth grumbles, "this is unbelievable."

"We got Mason to create an automaton to dive in and check. But it seems that the new demigod is down under the waves, too far and too deep for anyone to reach. So, we can't grab him. Sorry."

"Is he okay? How is he doing this? Who is his godly parent? A nereid, a sea nymph?" Annabeth asks, but she sees the answer staring back at her, point blank. She remembers his tattoo as clear as day, and it is quite obvious what it means; Annabeth just doesn't want to admit it.

She tries to calm the stirring in her stomach; this makes her feel sick, a familiar feeling that she's had the luxury of not experiencing for quite a while.

Once again, she is reminded of all the uncertainty and apprehension she has grown accustomed to the summer prior, when the Great Prophecy loomed above Camp Half Blood. Her mind flitted briefly to the new prophecy that Rachel the Oracle issued, about seven half bloods answering the call, and the world falling to storm or fire… It cannot come true this soon, can it?

"So, Annabeth, what are we going to do?"

In Jason's absence, she is the unilateral leader of Camp. She's worried sick, but there's an undercurrent of enjoyment of not having Jason around to take all the credit for everything she does.

He likes to do that. Ambition and glory have always been fatal flaws of the children of Zeus. But Annabeth feels guilty to dwell too much on what she didn't like of her disappeared friend.

"I'm going to wait. Can you grab me a chair, some plastic films, a Sharpie, and some rubber bands? I'll get Seaweed Brain over here out of the water."

The camper doesn't question the strange collection of items that Annabeth asks for, nods, and runs off into the hill.

Annabeth sighs. This is not going to go over well.

ix.

"Can you please stop throwing rocks at me? I read your first message clearly, you know." The boy glared at her with some scary sea green eyes. The intense stare reminds Annabeth of a wolf.

"You didn't reply; I had to get you up here."

"Why?" he asks, and that is a very good question. Why is Annabeth in such a hurry to get the new camper out from the ocean? He wasn't breaking any camp rules as far as she can tell. Dimly, she knows the true reason - that she can feel his powerful aura, even for a demigod, and that she doesn't trust him - but she isn't about to tell him that.

"Perseus, I'm just following standard camp protocol. We need to get you through the orientation video, and then get you situated -"

"-I don't even want to stay here-"

"-The outside is too dangerous. It's been a bad time-"

"-I don't care-"

"-I'll get Will to get you some ambrosia and nectar to help you regain your strength-"

"-You're not listening-"

"-You need rest-"

"-No," he snaps, "You have no idea what I need. You don't know who I am. I don't know who I am. All I know is that I need to find my mom."

He says this with stern finality in his eyes.

Annabeth wants to add that he also somehow knows who she is, but she bites her tongue. This isn't the moment for her hubris to show its ugly head.

"Do you know where she is?" Annabeth asks, cautiously.

He hesitates before answering. "No."

"Then how do you know where to go if you leave right now?"

"I don't," he says, starting to stalk towards Thalia's pine. Annabeth doesn't know how he knows which is the right direction to exit the Camp, but it seems like this Perseus is navigating just fine. "I just know I have to leave this place. It feels wrong."

Annabeth bristles at this, trying to keep pace with this demigod. He is fast.

x.

When they reach the camp's border, Perseus doesn't stop. Annabeth debates whether she will go past the border with him, when he gets bounced back by an invisible force.

He lays on the floor, holding his nose and groaning.

"It seems like the gods want you to stay, after all," Annabeth comments dryly and pushes her hand through the invisible barrier without problem.

xi.

"Who is the leader here? I need to speak with him," Perseus says, looking at Annabeth with furious eyes.

If she hasn't dealt with countless angry deities and monsters alike over the years, she might have stepped back.

Yet, she is used to it. She stares back evenly, noting how his (beautiful) eyes swirl like hurricanes and whirlpools. They are swarmed with a special kind of intensity.

Annabeth has only seen this in the children of the Big Three before.

That doesn't faze her.

"You are looking at her," Annabeth says, giving him her most authoritative look. Certainly, Chiron would not mind her claim. This is something she can resolve herself.

"Then we need to duel," Perseus says, and Annabeth stares back with an unamused eyebrow raised.

"Oh, really? Why is that?"

"This must be some sort of a trick. You are trying to trap me here. If we fight and I win, you must let me go."

"Rest assured that I have nothing to do with you being trapped here; it is flattering for you to think that I have power like that," Annabeth says, unimpressed.

Who does this demigod think he is? Does he even know who he is trying to challenge?

"Then I will destroy this camp until I can go. I need to find my mom," Perseus pressed again.

Deep down, Annabeth is a little touched. She would never go to such lengths (and leverage such threats) for her father. Whoever this demigod is, he has the rare fortune of having a good relationship with his mother. That by itself is something worthy to commend.

She decides to humor him.

"Okay, so we fight. What if you lose?"

"I won't lose," he says confidently.

Annabeth shakes her head, in awe that someone else can match her on hubris.

"I wouldn't be so confident, Perseus, but I will see you in the arena in half an hour."

xii.

Annabeth hates to admit it, but she was the one doing the underestimating.

Perseus, whoever he really is, is able to meet her jab for jab, thrust for thrust. He is able to parry all of her advances, and deflect any of her attempts. Annabeth is starting to think that he might not be as mortal as he looks - after all, with all this weirdness going on with Jason's and Dionysus' disappearances, who can really tell?

She is starting to get a little worried that she might lose and the consequences that can bring upon her and the camp.

Annabeth shakes her head subtly to clear these thoughts, electing to focus back on the fight.

They have been sparring for the past fifteen minutes, and she can tell that both of their endurances are wearing down. She also wishes that the curious campers sneaking glances would turn away; Annabeth doesn't have performance anxiety, but she hates having an audience.

He doesn't seem to mind.

He swings his celestial bronze sword, one with a faint golden edge of a material that is less familiar to Annabeth, at her again and again, issuing measured advances towards her as she deflects with her own. There are several elements in his fighting style that she does not recognize, reminiscent of something she has once heard of in Chiron's special twice-a-year Latin classes.

Whoever Perseus is, he is trained: certainly not at Camp Half-Blood, but some other place where he was able to methodically build up his sword fighting skills over a culmination of years. Annabeth doesn't fully understand the implications of this thought, but it is something she must investigate more later.

They dance around each other with their weapons, and Annabeth feels the hints of a wolf stalking its prey from the boy.

The weapons meeting in a flurry of motions, and Annabeth carefully looks for chinks in his armor.

There are not many, as it is clear that Perseus is a more than competent swordsman. He uses the sword like an extension of himself.

But he also fights like he is used to others acting as his backup, and he has holes in his defenses that leaves some of his sides open for attack. He seems to be caught off guard when she uses more of her unorthodox, non-traditional moves with her dagger with the flexibility that a sword cannot match, and it seems like the boy isn't used to fighting against something individually with a knife as her weapon of choice.

He is also strong, with an endurance that most likely surpasses her own. She needs to make a move soon, before she tires and he overtakes her.

Annabeth starts feinting moves in a rhythm, purposefully, for Perseus to follow and adapt to, but before long, she throws herself to his right, switches her dagger to her left hand, ducks under his attempt to block her, and uses her arms to pin him to the floor of the arena. The two huffs in exhaustion, dust settling down from their footwork just a moment prior.

He had not had any expectations that she could wield the dagger with the both of her hands - most people do not. But she has become so familiar with her weapon in the past nine years, and there is always value to having more skills up her sleeve that deviate from the norm.

"Yield," she says, pulling the dagger close to his throat, pointing it at his Adam's apple. His brows scrunch slightly together in concern before relaxing.

He grins, and she is taken aback. Her hold on him slightly lessens, and his smile grows wider. Annabeth is unsettled.

Just when she is ready to declare victory and demand that he obey all future rules of Camp Half-Blood, a wave comes out of nowhere and douses her.

The water is freezing, colder beyond anything she is prepared for.

It is so cold, so shocking, that Annabeth forgoes years of training and drops her guard. She steps back, spluttering and shivering, and tries to swipe her damp hair out of her eyes.

"What-"

"Yield," Perseus says, his sword pointed straight at her throat.

He is dry.

Annabeth has many questions and no answers. Her mind scrambles. Slowly, realization draws into her eyes.

"You cheated," she says, shaking her head. "That doesn't count." Internally, she freaks at what this boy can do.

He just controlled the ocean, dumping gallons of freezing water from the Long Island Sound onto her head. She continues to shiver: no matter how controlled the climate is within the shelter bubble of the camp, ocean water in New York in December can probably give her hypothermia.

She needs to dry off soon.

"You didn't say to not use any powers," he says, at ease, shrugging.

"That's implied," Annabeth says, flustered. "I have an invisibility cap that I chose to not use because it is implied that you don't use any special powers in a duel."

He shrugs. "You didn't make that point clear."

Annabeth is still shaking, but she doesn't know if that is from the cold or frustration anymore. She doesn't want to be a sore loser, but it becomes increasingly annoying for every second she is in the presence of this Perseus.

"Anyway," he quips, "can I go now? I would very much like to get along with my day and find my mom," he says, capping his sword and turning it back into a pen.

Annabeth shakes her head, he is impossible.

"You didn't win, and not only that, I already told you that I am not trapping you here. The gods are. You are here for a reason."

Perseus laughs. "A reason? There is no reason. Why would they only leave the memory of my mother in my brain if they didn't want me to find her?"
Annabeth bites her lip, willing herself to suggest that maybe they didn't mean to leave that memory with him. Maybe he just loves her so much that she is the only memory that remained with him, by the hands of the Fates or some other higher power.

"A son of Zeus went missing just days ago," Ananbeth says, trying to have the newcomer see reason. "You're here for a reason."

"I don't remember much, but I hate this. I feel like my entire life, people have always been telling me that I have to do this, I have to do that. I don't even know who I am supposed to be; I barely know about the gods, why should I care? I don't. I told you again, and again, and again, I need to find my mom," Perseus says, "that is not negotiable."

Annabeth steps back warily, once she sees a giant swirl of water forming around Perseus again.

This time, he can easily drown her.

She put her arms up, signaling a surrender. She isn't sure if telling a testy demigod to calm down is the best course of action at the moment.

"Hey, I hear you," she tries, but he only glares at her. "I'm really sorry. What I can promise is that I will do my best to help you to find your mother. But it seems like what they want," Annabeth glances at the sky, "is for you to participate in whatever role you have here, at Camp Half Blood, before letting you go. This is how the gods are sometimes."

Perseus hmphed. "Is that true? Can you swear on the Styx that you will help me find my mom?"

Annabeth hesitates, but she doesn't show her thinking. She has his attention and if she plays this right, she may gain this newcomer's trust to help her find Jason.

"Yes, I swear on the Styx." Thunder booms in the distance, and Annabeth isn't sure if this is such a good idea. Oaths are a dangerous thing to play with.

Perseus doesn't seem to be satisfied, still.

"And you gods, is what she is saying true?" he shouts into the sky.

Annabeth thinks that he is crazy. No one dares to disrespect the gods like that - not Jason, not anyone else at Camp. Just her, occasionally, when she is really, really feeling it.

"They aren't going to answer," Annabeth explains, "The gods have been silent since Jason's disappeared."

"Then I won't help-" Perseus starts to state, but he is interrupted by Annabeth's gasp.

Annabeth feels a wave of power emanate through the air; on top of Perseus' head, a glowing sea green trident rotates slowly, and Perseus' grip on the water slacks as the waves evaporates into little droplets in the air, raining down around the two of them.

Chiron finally arrives: some camper must have run to him when parts of the ocean were dumped into the arena. Upon seeing Perseus, he takes in a deep breath.

Other campers' murmurs are silenced by a gesture from Chiron, and Annabeth knows what she has to do. She hates to kneel to a boy who had just cheated to win in a duel against her, but it is a sign of respect.

The gods have spoken, breaking their silence in an exception as a message for the demigods.

"All hail Perseus Jackson," Annabeth says, realizing that she is one of the only people who know who this boy is, "son of the sea god Poseidon. Earthshaker, Stormbringer, Father of Horses."

xiii.

"So, this is where I am staying?" Perseus surveys around, looking at the cabin.

Annabeth has never thought that she would see that cabin come into use in all her years at camp. It's a cabin on the lakeside, and it feels every bit of serene and relaxing. She has to admit that it is well designed.

"Every god has a cabin here: Poseidon is your father, so this is yours."

"That's an interesting way to organize the campers." Perseus comments, looking around. He sits on one of the bunks and admires the sea green sheets. Waves are embroidered on the pillowcase. He brushes his hand against the bedding, and a fine layer of dust comes off with it. "There is no one else here."

"No, there isn't." Annabeth confirms, too tired to explain the pact that the Big Three made all those years ago.

"Poseidon," Perseus says, tasting the name as if it is foreign to him.

But it can't be, Annabeth thinks. The boy shows a great command of his water powers; he cannot be new to the gods' world.

"Let me know if you need anything, but if not, I'll leave you to settle in. Make sure that your cabin is clean for Wednesday inspections. Also, there's about half an hour before dinner in the pavilion. You'll hear the conch horn when it's time; do you know where it is?"

He nods.

She hands him the Minotaur horn that she's kept for him.

He accepts.

"Good. You should be at table three; I'll see you there."

Annabeth leaves the cabin without looking back. Dimly, she feels bad that she leaves the boy all by himself. He seems lost when he just wants to find his mom. But what can Annabeth do? They are all just toys for the gods to use. She needs to find Jason, and then she can help the boy get back to wherever he comes from.

xix. Annabeth sees Perseus at dinner, and he is doing it all wrong. He is about to take a bite when she appears next to him, scrowling.

"What? Why are you looking at me like that?"

"You didn't sacrifice your food to the gods."

"Excuse me?"

Annabeth sighs. "Here, follow me."

She leads him to the fire, and scraps a part of her plate off.

"To Athena," she says.

"That seems like a waste of some perfectly fine food."

"Don't be an idiot. If you want the gods to help you, you should be paying your respects. Start with sacrificing some food to your father."

Perseus looks like he is going to retort and say something dumb and sacrilegious (and Annabeth half braces herself for a strike of lightning from heavens to punish the boy for his insolence), but he rolls his shoulder and sighs.

"To Poseidon," he says, and he scrapes a part of his plate off.

"Good," Annabeth says, satisfied. "Now follow me to the tables."

She leads Perseus to table three.

"Isn't this my table? Your table is six, right?"

Annabeth shushes him, "I'm trying to be of some company for you, first proper dinner and all. Do you want it or not?"

Perseus doesn't say anything, and Annabeth takes it as acceptance.

Annabeth is mostly annoyed, but she can't deny that she is curious to learn more about the newcomer.

Mostly to find more information regarding Jason's disappearance, she convinces herself. But more than that, there's just something so recognizable and intriguing about Perseus - even the way he asks for a blue cherry coke at dinner.

Annabeth just doesn't understand why. That terrifies her.

xix. As it turns out, the children of the sea god are very, very bad archers.

Since Perseus stumbled into camp a week and some days ago, Annabeth has charged herself with the duty of making sure that he is assimilating nicely into camp.

Things are generally much slower in the winter, but she still wants to make sure that Perseus gets a chance to have a taste for different facilities available at camp as the rest of them figure out what is the best course of action next.

How can they know what the gods want them to do when they are all silent? Naturally, Chiron calls for a Big House meeting for later in the afternoon. He wants Perseus to join.

Of course, the duty to procure the son of the sea god falls onto Annabeth. She's already checked the lava wall, the archery range, and the arena.

Annabeth is on her way to cabin three when she decides to sit by the lake and think for a little.

In the past (before Jason's disappearance), Annabeth loved to come and sit and think.

The campers know that that's her spot.

She began this tradition rather early. First, when she was eight and shortly after she entered camp. She, Luke, and Jason all grieved for Thalia, but she preferred to do it alone.

Then, when Luke betrayed her and the rest of the camp, she sat by the docks for days, thinking, crying, hoping - until she became exhausted and came to accept that betrayal as fact.

Finally, just a few months ago, when the war was over and the shrouds were burned, she sat by the water, looking at its calm reflection and thinking about her fallen friends. There were too, too many casualties.

Just as she thinks, a figure bursts the surface of the lake, gasping, and splashing her. Her attention interrupted, Annabeth looks on with alarm.

"Hey! Who are you-" Annabeth blinks the water out of her eyes and narrows them at the intruder. "You."

She knows that her glare must have been accusing and intense, because Perseus shrinks away from her with wavering confidence.

"You need to stop dousing me with water every time we meet. What are you doing by my thinking spot?"

"Your thinking spot?" Perseus says, his eyebrows raising. "I don't see your name here, Miss Chase."

Everyone here at camp knows that it is mine, she wants to say, but she realizes how bratty it sounds. Instead, she yields, "I suppose I can share it this time."

He shakes his head, amused. "I'll be sure to stay on my side, at the bottom of the lake."

"Fine."

"Fine."

He doesn't go back under the lake's surface. Instead, Perseus walks across the lake like it is nothing, and climbs up the dock to sit next to her. Annabeth realizes that he is dry.

"That's a handy ability," she compliments.

"Thanks. It comes naturally. I don't even remember how I discovered it in the first place. It must have been a long time ago."

Some careful silence hangs between the two.

"So, you really don't remember much, hm?" Annabeth asks, trying to make some careful conversations.

"No," Perseus admits. "Not much still, aside from my mom."

"What is she like?" Annabeth inquires gently. "You don't have to tell me anything if you don't feel comfortable, by the way."

"That's alright. Thank you for asking." Perseus plays with a thread on his newly acquired orange Camp Half Blood shirt. There's a softness on his face that Annabeth has never seen before. She isn't sure if he is going to share, but he begins, "as I told you before, her name is Sally Jackson. She has warm brown eyes and you can see her kindness in them. She loves me a lot, and I know she must be worried by now. I wish I could tell her I'm okay."

There's a vulnerability in his voice that makes Annabeth's heart ache.

He turns his head and looks into the horizon. "She likes to bake me blue cookies. They are really gooey, rich, and absolutely delicious. It's kind of a tradition." He frowns, concentrating. "I think she also likes to call me Percy."

"Percy," Annabeth repeats, "it suits you."

Percy nods. "I think I'll go by that. I think she'll like it."

A pause.

"Percy," Annabeth says, and he raises his head slightly in acknowledgement. She looks at him with determination, "we'll make sure that you get back to her soon. She'll be so proud of you."

"Thanks," he cracks her a thin smile. "You can try some of her cookies then."

Annabeth nods. "I'd love to."

It's something to look forward to.

xxi.

"You must be really hating this newcomer, huh, Princess?" Clarisse comments dryly, in an impromptu meeting in the Big House a couple of hours later.

"Shut it," she replies, resting her dagger on the pool table as a silent threat to Clarisse. Clarisse scoffed, but settled into a chair at the opposite end of the room.

Annabeth finds Percy's eyes from across the table, silently pleading for him not to listen to what Clarisse claims. She is just trying to stir up trouble, Annabeth tries to mouth.

The room is quite empty, most of the campers being away for the winter, or died the summer before.

"So, what is the plan?" Will asks from a corner. "We haven't heard from any gods for weeks now, excluding Perseus' claiming."

The room trains their eyes on the son of Poseidon.

"Call me Percy," he shrugs. "And I don't have the answers here. I barely know what my name is."

A few campers sighed.

"How about the newcomers? Leo and Piper?"

"They just got here this morning-"

"Let's see if they know anything. We've gotten three newcomers within the span of ten days. This may all be connected," Chiron says, and Will nods before ducking out to retrieve the two demigods.

"Has anyone been having weird dreams lately?"

A series of 'no's resound the room. Annabeth sighs.

Clarisse stands up.

"This is ridiculous. They cannot expect us to throw ourselves in yet another battle for them. While they…sit on their asses on Olympus, probably tuning in via Hephaestus TV to laugh at us. What is this? A game?"

"Calm down, Clarisse," Drew throws the comment condescendingly from across the table. "This is not a great look for you, honey." Drew makes an act of checking her nails.

"That was out of line," Annabeth comments at the same time as Clarisse reacts.

"What did you say, you bitch?" Clarisse snarls, reaching across to grab the daughter of Aphrodite. "Silena died in the last battle, and here we are, going into another. I'm sick of it. And if you actually did anything worthwhile around here, you would be too."

"She's a traitor and I had to shoulder the Aphrodite cabin by myself, picking up bits and pieces of what remained after the war. Don't you dare-" Drew says in a rare display of anger, standing up in opposition of Clarisse.

Jake Mason and Chris Rodriguez both reach for Clarisse as she raises her arm, putting their hands on her shoulder, trying to calm her (and if need be, restrain her). She shrugs their hands off, but remains in her position. Annabeth considers it a blessing that a fight doesn't break out before the new campers arrive.

"Enough," Chiron says, tapping a hoof on the wooden floor and getting the campers' attention, "if you have any grievances against each other, take it outside of this meeting. One of our own is missing, and our numbers are small enough already. We should be thinking of a solution and assume the best intent."

Anger and bitterness burns in Clarisse's eyes, and Annabeth feels herself thinking that the daughter of Ares is completely justified. Annabeth also wonders briefly what the politics in the backgrounds of the Aphrodite cabin look like, but she is too exhausted to care much of it.

Annabeth throws a glance at Percy, who is drinking the scene in front of him.

"Make no mistake." Clarisse shakes her fingers at other cabin counselors around the room. "The only reason I am here to fight is because this is what Silena died for. This is what Beckendorf died for. Michael. Castor." At the mention of his twin's name, Pollux winces. "I am on the gods' side because of my friends, but I'm getting really tired of these games. Our lives matter too; we are children. We aren't just soldiers."

There are murmurs of agreement, but before anyone can supply a reply, the door swings open. Will ducks his head in and shoots a "please behave" plea with his eyes before leading the two in.

"Hey, this is Leo," he points to a short looking boy in suspenders, "and this is Piper," he points to a girl wrapped in a warm bomber jacket. "They haven't been claimed yet."

"So, Leo, Piper. How are you both?" Annabeth tries to ask kindly, but the two look at her, nervous.

Drew laughs shrilly, as if saying see? They don't know anything. We are doomed. Annabeth ignores her.

"We are at camp, right?" Leo says, looking around the room, unimpressed. Annabeth can tell that he expected more.

"Yes, yes you are."

She sees that Piper subtly kicks Leo's shin, as if she is telling him to be nice.

Ah, so they are familiar with each other. Which is good. They have the familiarity of demigods who've been through a quest (or a battle, or a war) together.

"I see," Piper says. "We're happy to be here."

"How did you hear about camp?"

"We heard about it from Hera. Something about a son of the sea and a son of the sky bridging communications between two places." Annabeth inhales sharply, and gestures for Piper to continue.

"We need to build a ship. With a dragon's head as its mast. Then we have to sail west," Leo says with finality, and the room erupts into chaos.

xxii.

In the next few weeks, Annabeth develops a casual friendship with Percy, trusting some of her past with him as time goes on. Percy still doesn't remember much of his past life for the most part, but it is evident that he returns that trust for Annabeth.

She learns that not all cyclopes are bad, and he learns about her time on the run with Luke, Thalia, and Jason (and how they all left her, one by one.)

Annabeth spars him, learning more of his disciplined fighting style (and how he used to fight with others in an organized group) and Percy learns some of her more stylistically unorthodox moves in disarming opponents and catching them by surprise.

She tells him tales of each of the beads on her necklace, and he shows her his tattoo as they speculate what each of the stripes mean. Four stripes, Annabeth counts, it must be in reference to how long he's been at this other camp.

They eat dinners with each other most of the nights, and no one really complains. The camp is empty; they are taking in comforts how they can.

For the most part, the camp has slowed down on the cabin rebuilding and is focusing their efforts on building the ship.

The newcomer, Leo Valdez, a son of Hephaestus, has been leading the effort.

It's been going slowly - there is a lot that they have to factor into for building this new monstrosity, but Annabeth has full confidence that they will get this done. She has been turning her attention fully into making sure that the engineering of the ship is strong and robust. They can do this.

On a rare occasion on a Tuesday afternoon, after arguing with Malcolm and Zayne about how the blueprints of the second deck of the ships should look (to make the engine rooms noiseless next to the bedrooms - gods, why is that even a point of argument?!), Annabeth leaves discreetly to get some time for herself.

"Blackjack," she greets once she gets to the stables, "look what I have?"

The pegasus neighed, and Annabeth smiles, reaching into her bags for some apples. "You missed me, didn't you? I've been busy, boy, I'm so sorry."

The pegasus eagerly takes one of the apples she has, but doesn't make an acknowledgement beyond that.

Instead, she hears a chuckle.

Turning, she sees the son of the sea god leaning against one of the wooden doors in the stable. He is spinning that pen of his in his hand, shaking his head at Annabeth.

"What?" she demands. "What's so funny?"

"Nothing," he says, but his eyes are full of mirth.

"Tell me! You're judging me," Annabeth pushes, annoyed. She is usually more patient than that, but she has had quite a long, tenuous day by that point, and the one place she is coming to seek solace has a judgy gorgeous black haired boy making snide comments in his head. She knew she should have gone to the lake instead.

"I'm not judging you! It's just amusing."

"What is? Don't make me ask again."

He shakes his head. "You know that Blackjack is a girl, right?"

A pause.

"I knew that!" Annabeth says, her face turning red as she defends herself.

Percy looks like he wants to tease her, but he doesn't. It is obvious he knows that she didn't really know that Blackjack is female. It may be a little embarrassing, because she has known the pegasus for nearly ten years now.

"I assume that you also know that Blackjack prefers sugar cubes over apples? She says that the last time you gave her some was two years ago, she was ecstatic and asked for some more but you never brought any cubes back again. Only apples."

"Never mind that Blackjack wants apples or sugar cubes; you speak pegasus?"

"I mean, I technically speak horse."

"How did you even discover this?"

"I've always been able to," he says like it is the most obvious thing in the world.

"Oh my gods. I can't speak owl, how would I know that you can speak horse?"

He only shakes his head before smiling.

"That's your pegasus?"

"Technically, Blackjack was someone else's," Annabeth says sadly, thinking about Silena and barely swallowing some of her next words, "A friend's. But he's - she's mine now."

Percy doesn't say anything, but he nods. He understands.

"I'm sorry," he says, "and Blackjack misses your friend, too. I'm sorry for what happened."

"It's okay, thanks," she replies, shaking her head. "The war… It was a lot, and you might have heard a bit about what happened, but it was all messed up. The camp looks empty now, partly because it's the winter time and a lot of kids only come during the summer, but partly also because we've just suffered great losses this year. It's been tough."

Maybe it's because Annabeth has been really feeling alone, or maybe she likes that Percy doesn't have a pre-conceived notion of who she is supposed to be (a cold, tactical, abandoned yet formidable daughter of Athena), but Annabeth finds herself confessing some of her thoughts freely.

Percy slides down from where he was leaning against, and sits. He gestured to the space next to him.

"So let's talk about it," he says genuinely and gently.

Annabeth appreciates that he doesn't ask out of politeness and invites her straight to a conversation. It is refreshing.

"Are you sure? I don't want to bore you," she says out of courtesy, but he snorts.

"I have all the time in the world. I am not the most helpful during the planning stages of the Argo; I have no architectural or engineering skills. Plus, I hardly know anyone here, and most people are afraid of me. Not you - you helped me settle in, and it seems like the gods really don't want me to leave until this whole thing is over, so I suppose the only option remaining is to listen to you," Percy says, not unkindly.

"Oh no, what a burden that is!" Annabeth exclaims, rolling her eyes, but she sits. "In all honesty, though, thank you. I appreciate it."

"You got it."

She sighs.

"So how much do you know about the Titan War?"

"Only what is said here and there."

"And what does that mean?"

"Well, I heard about Luke, a son of Hermes who was the host of Kronos, and how he had awakened most of the Titans, ready to overthrow Olympus. I've also heard about your choice in the end, how you saved Olympus."

"That was true, about Luke. But it wasn't really me in the end. It was Luke; he sacrificed himself to save everyone else. And he tried to get the gods to give more recognition to minor gods and more attention to their children, yet here we are." Annabeth sighs. Maybe she cannot shake her reputation after all. She shouldn't have expected Percy to know. And maybe hoping that the gods can change is a naive child's dream. Creatures of objective permanences probably don't do well with change.

However, Percy doesn't know where her thoughts trail to, and he continues, "I've also heard about some of your quests with your boyfriend, Jason-"

"He's not my boyfriend; I was trying to break up with him before he disappeared," Annabeth mumbles in response, saying this out loud for the first time to anyone but herself.

"Oh?" Percy says, raising an eyebrow, probably intrigued about Annabeth's confession. He says that quickly enough that something does a little flip in Annabeth's stomach.

She thinks a little more about how she wants to respond to her new friend about why her relationship seems a little more than complicated at the moment.

"Yeah, we, just - Well, we were together for a few months mainly because that was the expectation that everyone had. And after a tough summer, everyone at camp just wanted to see something nice. A distraction to get everyone's mind off of the tragedies that just happened, so we went along with it for the most part."

"Huh," Percy says, and that was that.

Annabeth wants to explain more: to explain how she felt in that difficult situation, and how his status as a son of Zeus made it so that her accomplishments were often eclipsed by his, but she doesn't.

Why should she explain? It's not like Percy would want to hear more about it.

"We aren't great together as a couple," Annabeth admits, "but we are good friends. I worry for him. I think that he probably doesn't have his memories either, and knowing him, he would just attract all kinds of trouble."

Percy looks at her with pity.

"I don't know much of where I come from, this camp that Chiron keeps talking about. I have no recollection or memories of that place, but if the people there are like the people here at Camp Half-Blood, I'm sure that Jason will be fine."

"I really hope so," Annabeth says.

Percy looks at her softly.

"He will be."

"Thanks," Annabeth looks at her hands, sighing, before turning back to look at Percy when she realizes that he probably has a lot of feelings of insecurity and uncertainty of his own. She cannot imagine what it's like having amnesia and being thrusted into the middle of all this. "Also, I'm sure that your friends are looking for you, too."

"My friends?" Percy repeats quiently, as if he is trying to taste these words for himself. "Yeah… I wish I could remember them."

"You're a good person, Percy. I know they are looking for you. Your mom, too. She must be worried sick."

"She would be, wouldn't she? I can't wait for her to see me."

"I can't wait, either," Annabeth says and she fully means it. She just feels a little sad that after all this, she wouldn't be seeing Percy again.

Sometimes, looking at him, it feels like she is finding a little piece of herself that she has been missing all along.

xxiii.

"Hey you," Annabeth says when he finally emerges from the water.

"Back at you," he says, before commenting,"you didn't need to chuck the rocks so hard into the lake, you know."

"Noted," Annabeth says, a sparkle of mischief in her eyes. "The water slows it down anyway."

"I'm just trying to save you energy," Percy says. "Just trying to be friendly."

"Hmm, alright. I can appreciate that. Friendly Percy Jackson: what a concept."

He hums back in acknowledgement and sits next to Annabeth by the docks.

She isn't startled that he is completely dry coming right out of the water anymore.

"So, you like this spot too, huh?"

"It's a good one, I can't deny that."

"Yeah."

They sit in comfortable silence for a while.

"So, what's on your mind?"

"Why do you ask that? I should be asking you that instead."

"I just," Percy said, "there's not really anything that I can remember, anyway. And it seems like the camp is tense. Being the camp's leader - it can't be easy. I saw what happened in that meeting a few weeks ago, and I doubt that anyone's checked in with you on that yet."

"Hey," Annabeth started indignant, but she trails off. What can she say? It's really sad when the newcomer (even if they have had more than a few interactions by now) can tell that she has no friends to talk to about all this, now that Jason is gone.

"I don't mean it like that," Percy says, some guilt seeping into his sea green eyes. "What I mean is that people really look up to you, respect you. And being at the top, it seems lonely."

"And what do you know about that? The camp is a family; I'm not lonely."

"I know I don't have much of any memory, Annabeth," Percy shakes his head. "But I know that look. There are some feelings and emotions that I just know about, and that's one of them. I can't explain it."

"What look?"

"The look you have. When there are so many people who you can call your friends and family, but you can't really talk to them." Percy furrows his brow. "I'm not claiming that I know anything about that, and I certainly can't tell you if I do. But I do sympathize, you know? It's a lot of responsibility, and building a flying ship more or less overnight is not an easy task."

"I have a lot of help," Annabeth says humbly.

"Of course it's a group effort, but you know what I mean." He gives her a crooked grin, "All I'm trying to say, Wise Girl, is that you can talk to me anytime."

"Wise Girl?" Annabeth questions, tasting the nickname in her mouth.

"That suits you, doesn't it?"

She scowls. "Clarisse calls me that. She calls me Princess too, and I hate it."

"Don't hate it, embrace it!"

She is still scowling.

"Fine," he relents, "I won't call you that anymore."

Annabeth considers.

"You can call me 'Wise Girl' but only on one condition."

Percy's interest piqued,

"Oh? What is it? I'll do it."

"Are you sure?"

He nods with those puppy dog eyes of his and Annabeth's heart melts a little. She laughs.

"It's not something that you would have to do."

"Just tell me! What is it?"

"You can call me 'Wise Girl' if I get to call you 'Seaweed Brain,'" Annabeth says, cringing a little for the nickname that she came up for him when he was sulking in the ocean. Maybe she should have given him another nickname.

"'Seaweed Brain?'" Percy makes a face, "That doesn't even sound good. At least my nickname for you is positive!"

"Take it or leave it."

"Fine!" Percy says, laughing. "But only because we're friends."

"Friends," Annabeth repeats. "Who would have thought that a daughter of Athena and a son of Poseidon can be friends?"

"Are we not?"

"We are! It's just… unusual." Annabeth says, thinking over the easy friendship she has with Percy over the past couple of weeks. "Why are you so nice to me?" she continues, not understanding why anyone would offer her a listening ear. He's given her a chance to speak more than a couple of times now.

"Why shouldn't I be?" Percy says, and that answers everything.

xxiv.

At night, they walk by the beach.

"You know," Annabeth starts, speaking quietly as if she is passing a secret between just the two of them.

She is, she supposes - but one can never tell when the gods are listening in.

"Yeah?" Percy asks, peeking at her at the corner of his eye. "What is it?"

"Sometimes, I really wish that I am not a part of this."

She doesn't need to say what she is alluding to. They both know.

"Yeah, me too."

Annabeth would do a lot to leave the gods' world behind. She is so tired.

Sometime along the way, they sit down on the sand and look at the stars, ignoring the occasional cry of the harpies far in the dark.

"I promise," Annabeth says softly, "that I'll try my best to get you back to your mom."

She doesn't turn to him, but she can tell that Percy is looking at her from the corner of her eyes.

"Thanks," he says, and they let the sound of the crashing waves fill the silence between them.

xxv.

Three weeks, and Annabeth is finally used to the fact that she has to go through the Poseidon cabin when she completes the cabin inspections every Wednesday afternoon.

She knocks on the sea green door, checking to see if Percy is in the cabin before stepping in after some moments of silence.

It smells like the ocean: that little detail never ceases to amaze her.

The cabin was just as she left it last time. She pities Percy: he didn't really have any possessions when he stepped into camp. At the head of the bed lies his spoil of war from the fight with the Minotaur, other than that, changes of clothing have all been neatly tucked away.

The bed is made.

Annabeth shakes her head. If what Chiron had said was true, then this Percy Jackson is a Roman demigod. Maybe he's made his bed for the inspection - Annabeth doesn't really know, but she has a feeling that the boy makes his bed on a regular basis. Maybe Romans are just trained to all be that orderly. She makes a face.

Annabeth puts a checkmark on her inspection sheet, but just before she turns away to head for Cabin 5, the bathroom door opens and the son of the sea god stumbles out.

"Um, hey, I was just here to do my rounds for cabin inspections." Annabeth says, trying to be as nonchalant as she can be while averting her eyes and staring hard at the trident decor on the wall to Percy's right.

"Hey," Percy squeaks, clutching at the towel around his waist, trying to secure it as much as possible.
"Anyway," Annabeth tries to regain her ability to speak, "I'm just heading out. So, uh, it's great to see you. And I'll see you, uh, later, for dinner. Bye!"

Annabeth curses herself out thoroughly for the incoherency (when had that happened to her last? She can't even remember) and doesn't give Percy a chance before she runs out of the cabin, semi-horrified.

Seeing her friend half-naked had not been on her to-do list for the day.

From how flushed her face feels, then, life had definitely been infinitely simpler before that little run-in.

She can't say that she regrets it, though.

xxvi.

"You're looking pretty flushed, Annabeth," Will comments as Annabeth surveys her flip chart, and turns to the page for a blueprint for Argo II's stables, away from the cabin inspection page.

"Hm," Annabeth responds, trying to ignore her long term friend.

"You like the new boy, huh?"

"Will," Annabeth sighed, "we've already gone over this. No, there's nothing between the two of us."

"It takes more than that to convince me, Chase."

Annabeth just huffs again, taking a piece of blueprint from Will's hands, inspects it, and adds it on her clipboard. She lightly taps him on the shoulder with the board.

"Shut up, Solace," she says, but Will looks at her, skeptical.

Maybe her friend wants to say more, about how she should be more careful, but a stern warning stare from Annabeth shuts him up and that was that.

xxvii.

"I didn't think we were going to spar again so soon, Chase."

"It's been over a month, Percy. If you didn't use your powers-"

"-Want to lose again, then?"

"Don't interrupt me, Seaweed Brain. I just hope that you are better prepared this time."

They shake and agree on sparring rules before Annabeth anchors herself on one corner of the arena and Percy on the opposite side of her.

Percy gives her that smirk that she has grown to adore.

"Ready?"

"As ready as I'll ever be."

When Percy strikes with his sword, Annabeth is ready. She counters and bears the weight of the strike on the hilt of her dagger, using force to twist Riptide away.

"Not bad," he quips, with a smile at the corner of his mouth. This time, fighting against him feels much less antagonistic.

Instead of accepting the compliment, Annabeth quips, "you may want to focus, Jackson," before turning clockwise and raising her dagger to strike. This time, Percy poses his sword at a diagonal position and blocks hers.

They continue to fight, clashing their weapons against each other. Idly, Annabeth notes that Percy learns to guard his sides much better than he did before. He is definitely learning the Greek methods of fighting.

He is also more aware of protecting his right hand side, having his stance a little more opened than last time in case she switches to fighting with her left hand again.

She smiles. The boy learns quickly.

But she learns too. She learns that he likes to parry and block before issuing an attack that aims to the right of her center, slightly right above her waist. She learns that it is an easy opening for him to take advantage of if she doesn't angle her body just right so that he finds nothing but air with that jab. She learns that when she teases him, the sunlight would hit his eyes just right that they would sparkle back at her.

Annabeth ducks from another strike that he throws at her, and she shifts her weight to her left foot as she anchors upon it, spinning and swiping his legs with her right.

He tries to jump over her leg, but she still catches his left ankle, and he trips, falling backwards.

Percy probably has time to bounce up and away, but he doesn't.

Annabeth points her dagger at his throat.

"I yield," he says, smiling through his eyes.

There is no hidden trick this time.

Annabeth ponders whether she should accept it, because she doesn't know if it is entirely fair for her to do so (since she thinks there is a possibility that he can still win), but he starts with a hearty laugh.

"What's so funny?" she asks, frowning.

"You just have the most serious and intense look on your face. It's stunning."
Annabeth feels her cheeks heat up for a brief moment, but she also chooses to laugh, imagining what she must have looked like with that intensity on her face, and it feels so good.

She lays next to Percy on the sandy floor of the arena, raising her palms to shield her eyes from the sunlight (rarely as bright as it is in the winter) as she looks at him.

He looks back with his sea green eyes, still full of mirth.

She feels happy.

"So, are we even?" he asks with a smirk.

"In your dreams. I don't even know if either one of these count towards our records." Annabeth says, using her dagger to absentmindedly carve into the sand.

"What are you remembering?" Percy asks, raising a brow.

"What do you mean?"
"Something's on your mind, you only start to do that with your dagger when you're reminiscing. What are you thinking?"

Annabeth was surprised that Percy picked up on her quirks.

Indeed, she was thinking back to when she sparred Jason last, a couple of months back now, and how he liked to arch lightning up his sword with his strikes against different enemies. Then she thinks about how close Percy's and her faces are to each other, and she feels guilty.

She isn't ready to admit that to Percy, but maybe it doesn't matter at that moment, anyway.

Their faces are closing together, fast, and maybe it is just the heat of the sun and the battle that just commenced, but she feels flushed.

And she feels some guilt.

Quickly, she turns back, and maybe Percy looks a little disappointed and maybe that is just a trick of the light, but she doesn't dwell on that, and asks, "how did you know me?"

"What?" he asks this time, reeling from her unexpected question.

"You knew my name and who I was when you just stumbled into camp," she explains. "How?"

He closes his eyes and hmms, thinking, looking so peaceful. Annabeth wants to frame this moment for herself to remember.

After a moment, Percy says, "I woke up in suburban New York one day, with all of my memories gone, except for a snippet of my mother. But I just knew that you're going to be able to help me. I remember thinking, 'Annabeth Chase' is the answer. And maybe something or someone whispered that into my ear, but they were right. You are the answer, aren't you?"

xxviii.

The next two weeks are full of training and sparring and camp duties, but Annabeth does not forget their conversation in the arena.

They may never mention it again, but she can't help but wonder about what-ifs. What-ifs in a world where Percy is Greek and they've gone on adventures in the demigod world together, and what that would have looked like.

She doesn't want to think too much of the eventuality of him having to leave. Supposedly, this is the calm before another war, but she feels so content and peaceful when she is with him. Annabeth just doesn't understand why.

Annabeth wants to put this time in a bottle.

xxviv.

"Fancy seeing you here," she comments when she climbs to the top of the lava wall.

Percy doesn't respond, but he scoots over to give her more space.

Annabeth hums, amused. It seems like this son of the sea god is not afraid of high spaces. One false move, and the two can fall and splatter on the ground.

Just like that one time when Ethan pushed her before he openly defected, Annabeth thinks. Jason had to fly over; he saved her the last second before impact.

"What are you thinking?" Percy asks, interrupting her flow of thought. He likes to ask her that question; sometimes, Annabeth wonders if it is because he doesn't have much to remember for himself.

That, or Percy just likes to make conversation with her.

"Just some of before." Annabeth says.

"Before the Second Titan War." Percy states, "right?"

"Yeah," Annabeth says, conscious of the fact that Percy had no memories of the war. She told him an abridged version of what happened before, and she was thankful that he didn't press for more.

Some memories from the war are too difficult to dive into, just yet. Five months wasn't enough time to grieve.

Annabeth also wonders what role this Percy played in the war. He's a child of the Big Three, and looks to be about sixteen (no one knows what his age is for sure). He is trained, so he must have had a battle of his own, too.

"I don't remember much, but I think I have snapshots… of me co-leading a legion? A legion of kids donning purple shirts," he frowns, running his head through his hair, frustrated. "Does this even make sense?"

Annabeth raises a brow at him. "Percy, I have no idea what you're going on about. Is this about the other camp? When did you start having these new memories?"

He looks at her with hopeless eyes. "Last night, I couldn't sleep, so I ventured out to the ocean to just sit and think. I was praying to my dad… if he cared about me, that he would give me a hint about what I'm supposed to do. I don't even remember going back to my cabin, but I woke up this morning just seeing flashes of this other place."

Annabeth puts her hand on his, softly.

"This other place… That's what we are going to find in the West, right?"

"Yes," he says, eyes tumultuous and unreadable for a second, "but I think our journey won't be concluding there. Not by far. You know that something is stirring. I'm sure that you might be having some of those demigod dreams, and heard whispers of the Earth Mother stirring."

Annabeth feels something tugging in the back of her head.

She hasn't been sleeping as well lately, that much is true. But she often forgets what her nightmares were of as soon as she wakes up. What Percy is saying… that feels familiar.

"So that's it - a few months after the Second Titan War and we can't even get a break -"

A couple of campers scurry over the field, waving their hands and screaming for the two's attention. They want Percy and Annabeth to get down the wall, from what they can tell with the gestures.

It seems like there's a situation.

xxx.

As it turns out, the Myrmekes took her brother, Malcolm, and they had to venture to the Grove of Dodona by the woods to take him back.

Annabeth has not been thrilled by the prospect of venturing to the lair of giant insects in the dangerous woods behind camp, but at least there shouldn't be any spiders.

Well, if it were spiders, she wouldn't have volunteered to head the (hopefully) small expedition.

No one else at camp was particularly thrilled of the idea of going to a nest full of giant ants, so she is thankful that Percy volunteered to come with.

However, Annabeth is nervous. She is saving the pleasantries for later.

"So, we are just going to fight some big ants? Sounds straightforward enough," he quips.

"Percy, these ants can spit acid. If you get hit by that, it'll melt your face off," Annabeth says, shuddering a little at the memory of Silena's death. Percy doesn't press to ask, but the grin falls off of his face.

"Maybe it's a good thing that we have armor, then?" He tries to be hopeful, but his smile is weak when he says that.

Annabeth sighs, knowing that he is just trying to be of some comic relief so she can stop being so nervous and tense.

She acknowledges by adjusting the straps on his armor. "Your armor is crooked," she says.

"Oh," he replies, "thanks."

Annabeth nods in acknowledgement and the pair continues to walk into the woods.

xxxi.

"Are you okay?" he asks, after they dropped Malcolm in the infirmary.

They are both coated with slime and gunk, reeking of decade old smells of rot from the Myrmekes caves. Annabeth doesn't dare to imagine what that rot once was, probably. The mere thought of that makes her want to hurl.

"I'm okay," she confirms, "just really in need of a shower."

Percy laughs, and a piece of muck falls from his hair. He flinches then, and says, "You're definitely right about that."

Annabeth acknowledges, and the two start for their respective cabins.

When they reach the center of the Omega (once an upside down 'U'), next to Hestia's hearth, Percy stops for a second. She stops with him.

Annabeth wonders how he manages to look so cute even with concern and Myrmekes bits littered all over his face.

He probably did the most gentlemen-like action she has seen any boy do for her. He shielded her from monster guts with his own face a few times during the fight.

"Hey," he says, touching her arm slightly.

"What is it, Seaweed Brain?"

"I'm really, really glad you're okay," Percy says with more tenderness in his voice than Annabeth has ever heard.

She considers the boy in front of her. He's barely been in camp for three months at that point, and though his arrival was an unwilling one on his part, he's since tried his best to acclimate himself into the camp.

He's done all that was asked of him, and hopped into the mission to find her brother without a single second of hesitation when most non-Athenian cabin campers balked. Now, even though Percy is doused in monster goo, he still holds more concern for her than anyone else.

Few people have ever done that for her in her life, Annabeth observes.

She can't help herself but step forward and gives him a hug.

Percy was rubbing the back of his neck with nervousness with his right hand a moment ago, but he drops his hand to immediately return the hug.

I will never let you go alone, he seems to say with the embrace, but Annabeth doesn't want to read too much into it.

"I'm really, really glad that you're okay, too." Annabeth says to his shoulder instead, wincing at the smell. But she remembers the moments where Percy was nearly doused with acids spewing out from the Myrmekes, when he used his sword to hack away at the sticky cocoons the ants created to hold Malcolm hostage. Annabeth has seldom seen such bravery, and she is so, so touched.

"Yeah?" He smiles, teasing her and running the moment, "you wouldn't want to see me be an ant bait?"

"Shut up, Percy," she says, holding him closer. "Never."

xxxii.

It is already April before Argo II is nearing completion, and Chiron calls for another Big House meeting, where he recites the prophecy from Rachel in a solemn voice.

Annabeth sees a couple of eyes roll at the dramatic flare, but she is worried. She has a good inkling of what will happen, after all. The Seven of the prophecy… There aren't a lot of candidates left for who that can be.

As for the line for storm or fire… Well, that has to be either Percy, Jason, or Leo. There's no use trying to deflect the prophecy for not including these demigods, knowing how the Fates work. They have to be on the trip.

At the head of the ping pong table, Chiron tries to gather attention by clicking his hooves from the floor, but the campers chat on.

A few months have passed since winter, and it feels like Jason's disappearance has taken a little bit of a back seat in most of the others' minds. After all, who has not experienced loss during that time? Jason was a respected leader, but he wasn't well loved. Aside from Annabeth, maybe only Grover and a few others would actively search tirelessly, months after months, for him.

Annabeth does not try to hide the look of urgency (and maybe a little helplessness - she won't admit it if you ask her) in her eyes, and Percy takes note when he meets her eyes across the room.

"Quiet," he commands, sea green eyes looking like mini hurricanes, and miraculously, the room quiets and looks at him.

Annabeth shudders a little at his presence; the room fills a little with the moisture one usually feels before a hurricane. It makes the little hairs on her arms stand up. That is the familiar power and temper of a child of Big Three's.

He is not the boy by the lake, or in the dining pavilion, or on top of the lava wall. He is the one she saw in that fight when he stumbled into camp, and on their mission to save Malcolm, and during their duel in the arena. Percy has always been a natural leader; that much is evident.

Chiron clears his throat awkwardly.

"Thank you, Percy." He says, "campers, as you may know, we are here to discuss who we will be sending on the Argo to Camp Jupiter. Jason Grace is most probably there."

There are some murmurs amongst the campers, but that is nothing new.

Annabeth expects that Percy will take the lead, saying that he must go as he is the exchange token from the other camp, but he looks at her instead, deferring to her to lead the conversation.

At that moment, Annabeth is so touched that she could cry.

Jason would never do this. He likes the spotlight, and despite them being best friends for years, Jason's actions would always make her feel like a sidekick. And Annabeth Chase is no one's sidekick.

Swallowing the lump in her throat, she nods at the son of the sea god, "as you know, another war is coming."

Some more murmurs.

"That is not a point of dispute. The question is, who shall we send? I know that none of us wants to engage in another war, especially since it's only been 10 months since the last one. Everyone knows that we have suffered enough."

As Annabeth says this, her grey eyes look hard into each of the cabin counselor's eyes. All of these head counselors, and Piper's and Leo's.

"It makes sense for Percy to go, of course. We think that he may be from Camp Jupiter."

More murmurs; there had never been a formal session to announce Percy's origins, but everyone had their guesses. Annabeth holds up her hand.

"And Leo, naturally. He designed Argo II."

"I'm not going without Piper," Leo says, looking across the table at his friend. The daughter of Aphrodite nods - it seems like the two have already had this conversation. It makes sense, too, to Annabeth: there is a reason why the message was sent to those two to ask them to sail to the West.

Annabeth nods in acknowledgement, "Any objections?"

None of the campers objected. Drew looks like she can't wait to get rid of Piper; Annabeth heard of some disputes relating to the head counselor title of the Aphrodite cabin in passing, but she never looked further into it.

"The last spot," Annabeth says, "I think I ought to take it."

A beat of silence.

"Not that I'm objecting, because I don't want to send myself or any of my siblings to death, but why you?" Clarisse says, raising a brow. Annabeth can see the relief and begrudging respect in the eyes of the daughter of Ares, though.

"My mother left me a token long ago: she has requested me to find the Mark of Athena," Annabeth says, letting that sink in.

"You've never mentioned that before," Chiron observes, obviously concerned about this new development.

"I didn't know if it were just a dream, at first, and when it became apparent this was my mother's will, I didn't have an idea under what circumstance I would have the opportunity to do so," Annabeth explains, "but it has became apparent over the course of the last few weeks, when I obtained this coin."

She draws the ancient drachma from her pocket and shows the room.

Chiron's scrunched up features and resignation are all that's needed for her to convince every camper of what she will have to do.

Katie and Will look on sadly.

Annabeth does not know if that means her friends know what it means for her to bear the Mark of Athena, either.

"Well, that's settled then," Annabeth concludes, not wanting to think more about the implications of having the mark and participating in the upcoming war. "Piper, Leo, Percy," she nods to each of the three, "it looks like we should get prepared to set sail."

xxxiii.

"You're jealous," he comments, after Annabeth chases Drew Tanaka away with her death glare.

Drew was trying to get him to do something after the Big House meeting. Annabeth doesn't care what it was about; she just doesn't want the son of the sea god to go with the daughter of Aphrodite.

"No, I'm not!" Annabeth says, turning around and showering Percy with her wrath instead.

"Uh-huh, if you say so." Percy comments in the most annoying sing-song voice, and Annabeth feels the urge to push him into the lake. Not that it would do anything to the son of Poseidon anyway.

Annabeth huffs, and Percy, to his credit, simply turns around with a big grin on his face.

She fails to repress a tiny smile that blooms on her face. It is true. She is jealous. She can be quite certain of that surge of envy when Drew threw herself onto Percy. What she is less certain with is how she is going to deal with her feelings.

Her mother certainly would not be happy if she knew.

But hey, her mother is hiding away, just as all other Olympians are, leaving the demigods to figure this out amongst themselves. Athena's approval is certainly not at the forefront of her mind at this moment for Annabeth Chase.

"I hate you," she decides on that, scowling at him.

"You don't mean that," he says, slightly hurt.

She feels incredibly guilty. "I didn't. I'm sorry. I just…" She trails off. What can she say? She can't admit to him what she feels, what she is feeling at the moment.

It's becoming more obvious over time that she feels something more than just friendship for the son of the sea god, and it's so, so dangerous.

He only shakes his head and smiles, eyes saying that everything is alright, but Annabeth feels less than okay. Sooner or later, she has to confront the butterflies that just won't settle in her stomach.

But when he laughs at her troubled expression and asks her if she'd like to go get some ice cream with him in the dining pavilion (even if it's just a distraction for her to not think about the mark and Drew and all the other feelings she is having), she brushes those thoughts aside and decides to save them for another day.

She'd much rather enjoy a nice afternoon with her Seaweed Brain at the moment, away from Drew Tanaka and away from her feelings.

xxxiv.

"Nervous?" he says, breaking the lake's surface and swimming over to sit next to her on the docks.

It is the night before they set sail. The air is getting warmer and heavier with the smells of summer, and Annabeth is amiss that she will not be at camp to enjoy the ripening strawberries in a month or so.

"You know it," she says, sighing. Annabeth wonders how long this quest would take, how long it'll be until she gets to come home and sit by the lakeside again. She wonders if Jason is safe after all of these months and if he would have any remaining memories of Camp Half-Blood and of their friends.

She wonders if she'll see the end to this war; it is confirmed that Gaea is rising, and if she succeeds… Well, Annabeth supposes that it will be the end of everyone and everything that she's ever known.

"Hey, don't feel so down and gloomy. You know we'll do great," he says, taking her hand into his and Annabeth doesn't resist.

She enjoys the feeling of warmth that he gives her, and there's a sort of understanding between them. After all, they are going to be sailing to the other camp - a place called New Rome - and then to an adventure that will be another fight of a lifetime.

Annabeth's just so tired.

She tries to take her mind off of all the anxiety, to look at the stars that are shining bright above, but she finds her thoughts going back to the war, to Percy, and to the new camp that she'll encounters, and-

"What's wrong?" Percy asks, green eyes full of concern seeing her freeze at a thought.

Annabeth shakes herself a little, but doesn't speak. It's never occurred to her much before, but Percy must have had a whole life waiting for him at New Rome. Chiron mentioned that the son of the sea god should regain most of his memories once he steps back into the other camp (a city, really, from what Annabeth heard) and she is so, so happy for Percy.

But what if he already has somebody at this other place?
What if he doesn't want to have anything to do with her again?

"Nothing's wrong," she says, and that is true. "I'm looking forward for you to see your family again, Percy."

"Me too," he squeezes her hand, letting a sliver of comfortable silence pass between them. "And I'm excited for you to meet them."

"You are?" Annabeth asks, kicking herself for leaking so much hope into her voice.

"I am," he says firmly, "my mom would love to meet you. She will make you so many cookies to thank you for taking care of me these past few months!"

"Thanks, Percy," Annabeth replies, not knowing if he said these things intentionally to comfort her or not. "I'm really happy that we are going on this quest together."

"Likewise. And I'm excited for you to meet some of my friends too."

"Your friends at New Rome?"
"Technically Camp Jupiter," he corrects, "but yes, my friends there. They would be fascinated to see how you fight."

"And how do I fight?" Annabeth asks, not missing that Percy just carefully hinted her at the fact that he remembers some more about his life in the past. If he doesn't press more on that topic, she doesn't have anything to worry about, right?"

"Like a Greek," he says, smiling through his eyes. "Like Annabeth Chase."
"Is that supposed to be an insult?" She asks, not bothering to suppress her teasing smile.

"No, it's not." He grins at her, and Annabeth feels like her heart is full. "You're only the best strategist there ever is."

xxxv. epilogue.

When they finally arrive at New Rome, Percy's shoulders straighten, but he looks at her with those familiar sea green eyes that she had grown to love in the past few months.

Despite the looming war, she sees the future in his sea green eyes.

He grins at her, and kisses her softly on the cheek.

A promise.

"Come on," he says, taking her hand and leading her up the stairs onto the deck of Argo II, "let me introduce you to my other family."


a/n: thank you for reading; i hope that you liked this fic! if you did, please leave a favorite & a review, it would mean a lot to me and the team!

if you'd like to see more pjo/hoo content or the amazing artwork for this piece, feel free to reach out to me via my tumblr officialpjo (i post a lot of drabbles and art there), or read some of my other works :)